Achieving goodness

Confucius said: “Although a leader may not always achieve goodness, a petty person never achieves it.”

This is an ambiguous passage that has caused much scholarly debate. The point seems to be that even if a leader makes a mistake he can be forgiven for it because his heart in the right place whereas even if a petty person carries out a good deed he is not doing it for the right reason (namely, the pursuit of goodness.)

It never seems to have occurred to Confucius that a petty person could become a leader. Or of it did, he must have promptly dismissed the notion.

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